Our Florida climate allows us to enjoy growing many ornamental and functional plants in our yards and gardens. Some of the most successful are the many varieties of fruit that thrive here. These include:
- & More
With cooler weather on the way, be advised that some fruit trees like apples, peaches, pears, plums, etc., need a certain amount of winter dormancy (resting phase) to develop their leaves and fruit buds for the coming year. This dormancy period is triggered by colder weather and shorter days. The tree will stay at rest until it has just the amount of cold weather it needs. Fruit tree growers measure this period in terms called “chilling units” or “chill hours”.
Chill hours will vary, depending on which part of the state you live in. The number of annual chill hours experienced in our state during a normal year decreases as we move east and south.
Chilling Hours by Region
- North Central Florida – 400 to 500 hours
- Central Florida – 300 to 400 hours
- South Central Florida – 200 to 300 hours
- South Florida – 50 to 100 hours
Of course, the further south you go in Florida, the warmer the weather stays. The lack of cold is why fruits like apples and blueberries do not grow well in South Florida. Colder temperatures in the Panhandle explains why exotic fruits do not perform well in Northwest Florida.
In general, dwarf fruit trees mature earlier than full-sized ones, and some can bear fruit in their first year. Florida is a great place to grow bananas, and they should produce fruit in about a year and a half. Bananas grow very fast and make a pretty good natural barrier if planted in long rows. However, they are very invasive, and will multiply very quickly. If space is not an issue, they should be great producers in our climate.
As you plant, it can be beneficial to mix up the species rather than keeping them together in blocks of the same type – this makes it harder for pests to jump from tree to tree. Running chickens through your plants on a regular basis feeds the trees and can also knock back potential pest problems.